Dealing in grief: the men who pocketed £125 from a scrapyard for a stolen war memorial

John Ferguson pictured at Newcastle Crown Court.

John Ferguson pictured at Newcastle Crown Court.

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THIS man and his mate sold for scrap a memorial dedicated to Sunderland’s war dead.

John Ferguson (left), along with pal Anthony Roberts, admitted handling the stolen brass plaque, found after it had been ripped from the chapel wall at Grangetown Cemetery.

Laurence Smith, of Priors Grange, Pittington, reading the copy of the Sunderland Echo with the story of the vandalised war memorial from Grangetown Cemetery. The memorial records the names of his mother, sister and a brother who were killed in air raid on Sunderland in 1941.

Laurence Smith, of Priors Grange, Pittington, reading the copy of the Sunderland Echo with the story of the vandalised war memorial from Grangetown Cemetery. The memorial records the names of his mother, sister and a brother who were killed in air raid on Sunderland in 1941.

Relatives of those named on the memorial today spoke of their disgust at the crime.

The plaque is inscribed with the names of Sunderland residents who lost the lives during Second World War air raids.

But Ferguson, 37, of Athol Road, Hendon, and Roberts, 18, of Greta Terrace, High Barnes, sold it to a scrap dealer for just £125.

Both are expect to be sentenced in the coming weeks.

Lawrence Smith (pictured), 84, whose mum, brother and sister were featured on the memorial, said: “I really don’t know what kind of sentence would get through to them.

“The plaque is made of brass, so it is worth money, but it is nothing to what it means to the families of those who lost their lives.

“There doesn’t seem to be any consideration for anyone or anything.

“I honestly don’t know what you can do to change idiots like these for the better.”

The former Ministry of Defence worker, from Hendon, said he was left devastated by the attack.

His mum Madeline, 48, brother Edwin, eight, and 18-year-old sister, also called Madeline, were taking cover in an air raid shelter in Sunderland city centre when it was hit by a bomb in 1941.

“The whole idea of the memorial was to remember the civilians killed in the bombings,” said the granddad. “There are a lot of people who still live in the area who have family members on the plaque.

“It’s not just a piece of metal. It is an historical record and a tribute to those who died.”

Councillor Tom Wright, of St Luke’s Road, Pennywell, was also shocked about the crime involving the memorial, which included the names of his aunt Mary Harvey, 25, and cousin Annie, five., killed when a bomb dropped where Sunderland Winter Gardens now stands.

“This is a unique part of Sunderland’s heritage and to sell it for scrap is a disgrace,” he said.

“Sunderland was the sixth most bombed city because of the shipyards and there will be a lot of people in Sunderland who will have been outraged by this.”

Brothers Edward and Septimus Carter, who also feature on the plaque, were both killed by the same bomb in Hendon 1942.

Edward’s grandson Colin, 52, a hospital worker from Barnes, said his grandfather had survived being shelled in the trenches of World War One – only to be struck by the bomb when heading out to served as a night watchman.

“He was in Tatham Street at the time, he took the full force of the blast. His brother was killed by the same bomb, even though he was in a completely different area. It was that big.”

He added: “I think it’s horrible people could take that plaque and try to sell it for scrap.

“I don’t think people today realise what those people went through in 1939 – 1945.”

Twitter: @sunderlandecho